Thursday, September 16, 2010
Speech of Prakash Karat at the All-Party Meeting on Kashmir held on September 15, 2010
Hon’ble Prime Minister, leaders of political parties and friends,
It is a good thing that this all-parties meeting has been called to discuss the Kashmir situation, though it is a belated one.
For three months the Kashmir valley has been in turmoil. There have been continuous curfews and hartals and life is at a standstill. More than 80 people have been killed in firings by the CRPF and the police. Most of them are young men ranging from the age of 9 to 25. We express our sorrow and anguish at the loss of so many young lives.
The people of Kashmir had risen up to fight back the raiders from Pakistan in 1947. They had chosen to accede to the Indian Union. Today they are deeply alienated and angry with the Indian State. We have to introspect as to why this has happened. But that exercise cannot be conducted in this meeting. It needs to be done separately.
The first issue is how to characterize these mass protests. These protests involving stone-pelting youth against the police force should not be equated with the hardcore militant violence and terrorist acts.
If this is so, then the distinction should have been made on how to handle such protests and tackle stone-throwing. Unfortunately, the response of the security forces has been to resort to firings which have led to the loss of so many young lives.
The Home Minister mentioned that the security forces had exercised utmost restraint. But what we have seen is repeated police firings and every death has further aggravated the situation. I would like to state categorically that there was no justification whatsoever for this brutal policing methods.
It will be wrong to characterize these protests as engineered by extremists and pro-Pakistani elements. By and large, these protests are by young people in the valley who have only seen two decades of insurgency and counter-insurgency measures. No doubt there are forces trying to utilize the mass anger and mood.
Given this assessment, the primary issue is how to address the deep seated alienation and the grievances of the people. This requires primarily a political approach and not a law and order stance. There can be no solution by just deploying the security forces to suppress such protests.
In order to bring about a semblance of peace and normalcy, it is incumbent upon the state and the Central government to take the following steps:
(i) Many of the young boys who are in jail should be released if they are not facing any serious charges. Juveniles should not be kept in prisons as it is happening.
(ii) There are a large number of injured. Some of them have been permanently incapacitated. The government should announce a specific package for relief for these people and also for the sustenance and livelihood of their families.
(iii) Both the victims of the militants and those who are former militants need assistance to have their livelihood and maintenance.
(iv) Given the sharp decrease in the levels of militant violence, there should be a reduction in the deployment of the army and the security forces proportionately. Here the question of the continuance of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state arises. The army is not deployed or in use in Srinagar and other cities. Pending the question of amending the AFSPA or the future of this Act, what we suggest is that the Disturbed Areas proclamation be revoked from Srinagar and other urban centres. This will make the AFSPA redundant in these areas. I am sure the assessment of the security situation is that the army need not be deployed in the civilian areas where there is no serious militant activity. The armed forces are conducting an arduous and difficult task and their work has to be concentrated on the Line of Control and on checking infiltration from across the border.
(v) The real issue is about the accountability of the security forces. There have been excesses and violations of human rights. We should remember that the current outburst was sparked off after the exposure of the Machil encounter in which three innocent villagers were killed. Without firm action, we cannot instill any faith in the people.
What is required is the beginning of a political process in which a dialogue can be initiated with all sections in the state. We have our views on what should be the framework for a political settlement. But that is not what needs to be spelt out here.
The first step towards initiating a dialogue with all sections and political forces in the state can be the sending of an all Party delegation to the state to hear the views of the different sections of the people.
The Centre should spell out that there can be a dialogue process without any side setting pre-conditions. It would be better if the Prime Minister appoints a senior political figure who can monitor this process.
I had been to Srinagar in August. I met a number of people. They told me that the political parties in India do not seem concerned at the killings of so many people in the valley. In Parliament, there was an uproar when three people died in police firing near Aligarh. They asked, why is Parliament quiet about the happenings in the valley? We have to understand that there can be no solution to the Kashmir problem without taking into account the feelings and aspirations of the people of Kashmir.